According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 75 percent of pharmacy technician and pharmacy aide positions are located in a retail setting. Pharmacy technicians, also known as pharmacy assistants, work directly under a pharmacist filling prescriptions and verifying patient information. Although there are no formal educational requirements for pharmacist assistants, career training programs are offered at the college level. Pharmacist assistant training prepares candidates for a career not only in pharmacies, but hospitals, nursing homes and physician’s offices.
Assistant pharmacists receive training on the job, at colleges or with a vocational school. On-the-job training is informal, and usually involves pharmacist technicians shadowing an experienced pharmacist. Professional training is also sometimes classified as internships, which can be applied as credit towards a diploma or associate degree. Educational institutions such as Remington College offer diploma programs for online and in-classroom training, as well as preparation for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. Training programs also range in time frame. For instance, the Institute of Technology offers an eight-month program, whereas on-the-job training can vary anywhere from three to 12 months.
The curriculum for pharmacy technician training includes courses such as dosage calculations, first aid and CPR, and computer technology. Assistant pharmacists also learn about the workings of a pharmacy practice, law and ethics, pharmacology, human anatomy and career development. The curriculum for this role often includes additional training on medical abbreviations, compounding and building a relationship with pharmacists. Some colleges such as Remington College incorporate internships with experience pharmacy technicians or pharmacists as part of the training curriculum.
Assistant pharmacists learn valuable skills that can be applied in entry-level positions. For example, pharmacy technician training instructs students how to mix and weigh pills, liquids and other types of medication. Candidates also learn how to write and interpret prescriptions and communicate instructions clearly. Moreover, formal training helps assistant pharmacists develop strong interpersonal communication, project management and organizational skills. These come in handy since assistants and technicians are assigned duties including record keeping, filing, packaging and monitoring inventories.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacy technicians with past work experience, formal training and industry certification will have the best job prospects between 2008 and 2018. Moreover, jobs are expected to grow 31 percent during this time period. As the elderly population grows, demand for prescription drugs will rise. Scientific advances in medicine will also drive job growth for pharmacy technicians and assistants. Professionals with formal training and extensive experience can also pursue supervisory, specialty or sales positions.